Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, 1938.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
“Almighty Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification.”
What does this mean? What are we to have in mind when we say the Collect for this First Sunday after Easter? What does “Rise again for our justification” mean?
We chiefly are bound to praise God in Eastertide for the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord, who by His death hath destroyed death, and by His rising to life again hath restored to us everlasting life. The Collect today reminds us that we are also to praise God because Jesus Christ Our Lord is the Paschal Lamb, which was offered for us, and hath taken away the sin of the world.
Our Saviour died for our sins. He rose again for our justification. The Resurrection of Our Lord demonstrates the triumph of His crucifixion. It demonstrates the completeness of His atonement. It establishes the faith by which we affirm our belief in the forgiveness of sin. He who died for our sins rose again for our justification.
The forgiveness of sins and the Resurrection of the Body are the fruits of Good Friday and Easter. We must keep this in mind. Forgiveness blots out the sins of the old life. The Resurrection bestows the power for the putting away of the leaven of malice and wickedness, and for the service of God in pureness of living and truth.
The risen life is the forgiven life. "Know ye not," wrote Saint Paul, "that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into His death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life."
This newness of life is strikingly evident in the disciples on that first Easter Day. The former things had passed away. All things were made new. Each had become a new creature in Christ Jesus. Each accepted the newness without question or hesitancy. No one looked back with troubled anxiety. There was neither mention by Our Lord, nor reference by the disciples, concerning the failures and weaknesses and sins of the past. All that had dropped away. They gladly perceived in themselves the fruit of redemption. They walked in newness of life in the power of the Resurrection. We shall see that the newness was permanent.
They went from strength to strength. And when the time came that Our Lord was parted from them, and carried up into heaven, they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple praising God.
And so they continued. They witnessed, they worked, they suffered, they thankfully accepted martyrdom, rejoicing that they might lay down their lives for Him who loved them and gave His life for them. There had been weakness in the past, but out of that weakness they had been made strong. Because of the witness of the glorious company of the Apostles and the noble army of martyrs, the holy Church throughout the world acknowledges the Risen Lord today.
This is the meaning of the joy of Easter. It is a continuing joy. We must hold it and keep it steadfastly. The everlasting life is our possession. The sins of the past we must leave to the merits of the redeeming death of Our Lord on the Cross. The leaven of malice and wickedness of the present must be put away in the power of the risen life. The future must be met with quiet confidence in the knowledge that whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
In Lent we were engaged in deepening our penitence. In Eastertide we are engaged in deepening our faith. It is faith that makes penitence fruitful. By faith sorrow is turned into joy. Joy is the offering to be made in Eastertide. The Risen Lord is the God of our joy and gladness. As it was for the first disciples so it must be for us in our lesser and more lowly vocations. Every vocation is a great and high vocation because it is the calling of God. We must keep our Eastertide by walking in newness of life.
Affectionately in Our Lord,